Media coverage of a report from IDC Research says sales of Wi-Fi only tablets have passed sales of 3G models in Australia and New Zealand.

IDC’s analyst explained the shift away from mobile networks to Wi-Fi in terms of product offerings. This misses the point: for most people 3G doesn’t make sense on a tablet.

3G option is costly

Adding 3G, and now with the new iPad, 4G to an Apple tablet adds NZ$200 to the price. For the 16GB iPad, that’s a hefty 27 percent premium. For that kind of money, you need to know you’ll use that tablet while on the move.

To use mobile data you also need a Micro-Sim card and a mobile data account with a carrier. Make that an extra Sim card and account unless you don’t have a mobile phone.

3G is troublesome

When I bought my iPad 2 I decided this would be too much trouble. I might only need to use 3G with my iPad once or twice a month and I didn’t want to deal with extra Sim cards and mobile accounts.

Instead, if I need a 3G iPad connection while I’m on the move I use my mobile phone as a Wi-Fi hub. That way my phone account picks up the data cost.

I’m not likely to travel anywhere with my iPad and not take my phone as well.

Phone Wi-Fi hub fast enough

I haven’t benchmarked speeds on my iPad and phone combination against a 3G iPad alternative because the comparison is not important. My set up is more than fast enough for my everyday needs, the only drawback is using my phone as a Wi-Fi hub drains the batteries faster than normal use.

This approach means less administration and it consolidates all my data buying in a single account which means economies of scale.

If you’re always on the run and need plenty of data a 3G tablet might make more sense, for most users it doesn’t.

6 thoughts on “Tablet buyers prefer wi-fi-only models

  1. It makes sense on Kindle – the 3G support includes free lifetime data. You’re not so much talking about tablets as iPads.

    • Interesting point there. I’d classify the iPad, Android, Windows 8 devices and even the Blackberry Playbook as tablets, while the Kindle sits in a separate ebook category.

  2. Hi Bill, I would have thought that using mobile data was a key aspect of iPad use. However I tek your point about the $200 extra cost in NZ. I have a 3G data stick from 2 Degrees $20nz for 1Gb for 30 days now seems like a good price point. The helpful staff at 2 degrees say there is a way I can have a micro-sim off my data stick for an iPad. I have seen some people actually use scissors to cut the sims into shape – not sure I understand that but seems like a micro sim might be as as easy as getting a sharp pair of scissors?

    I also have 1Gb of mobile data on my phone which is way more than I can use given the battery life. I don’t use icloud because of the lack of WiFi around most of the places I work but the data stick is fairly good and I’m tempted by the mobile dream.

    • I agree mobile data is key to the iPad. It turns out those always-on-the-move types who need an iPad with built-in 3G are a much smaller segment of the market than Apple or the telcos anticipated.

      For casual users like me – I might haul my iPad into town once or twice a month – when you add up the numbers the additional up-front cost plus the cost of feeding another Sim card don’t make sense. A 2degrees-style prepay data approach is fine, but most of us carry our phones anyway – the evidence says we almost all do – and those phones can act as Wi-Fi hubs.

  3. I realise this is an old post, but I avoided 3G due to not wanting an extra data account, but wanting the mobility of 3G on a tablet. 2 Degrees has answered this with shared data. If only the other telcos did the same. I know it won’y happen soon, but shared data is the way to go.

    • I had to check the rules and prices for 2degrees’ shared data. As you say, it appears to go a long way to solving the problem and it’s free until April, which is good.

Comments are closed.